Aloha Friday Message – December 22, 2017 – A Guest with a Gift

1751AFC122217 – A Guest with a Gift

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Read it online here, please. And please, when you visit there, use one of the social media links at the bottom of the page to share this post. Thank you! And remember, we now have a READER VIEW available, so share this link or this email often.

Today I have the privilege of once again welcoming a Guest Author, Pastor John W. Kretser. John and I were laboratory supervisors in the Navajo Area Indian Health Service Agency back in the ’80s. We developed a lasting friendship having shared many trials and adventures in our work and many joys and assurances in our love for Jesus. Rev. Kretser offered to share some of his sermons with us to help alleviate the effort of preparing something every week during and after my weeks of feeling less than optimal. I am sharing it, with minor edits, because it expounds on the True Joy which is so easily lost in our present age. With great thanks and love, here is his message for the Moon Beam Network members:

Isaiah 11:10 10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. (NRSVCE)

Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV): 10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving                                                   December 24, 2006

A teacher asked her students how they celebrate Christmas.

“Tell me, Patrick, what do you do on Christmas Eve?”

Patrick said, “Me and my brothers and sisters go to midnight Mass and we sing hymns. Then we come home very late and we put mince pies by the back door and hang up our stockings. Then we go to bed and wait for Father Christmas to come with all our toys.”

“Very nice, Patrick,” she said. “Now, Jimmy, what do you do at Christmas?”

“Me and my sister also go to church with Mum and Dad, and we sing carols. When we get home, we put cookies and milk by the chimney and hang up our stockings. We hardly sleep waiting for Santa Claus to bring our presents.”

“That’s also very nice, Jimmy,” she said.

Realizing that there was a Jewish boy in the class and not wanting to leave him out of the discussion, she asked him the same question.

“Now, Isaac, what do you do at Christmas?”

“Well, we also sing carols,” Isaac responded.

Surprised, the teacher exclaimed, “Really!”

“Oh, yes. We do it every year. When Dad comes home from the office we all pile into the Rolls Royce and drive to my Dad’s toy factory. When we get inside, we walk through the warehouse to look at all the empty shelves and then we sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Then we all go to the Bahamas for 2 weeks.

As I reflected on this cute little story it occurred to me that perhaps the hidden lesson in the tale might pertain to appreciation. Of all the characters in the story, the one who expressed the greatest appreciation for Christmas or even mentioned the name of Jesus was the Jewish boy who was able to relate in practical terms to just what Christmas meant to him and his family. The others, by comparison, related to Christmas in terms of ritual, tradition, and fantasy, none of which included even a mention of the central figure that Christmas is supposed to honor, the Lord Jesus Christ. Father Christmas and Santa Claus are offshoots of the blending of pagan and Christian beliefs and seem to be the focus of greatest interest and attention to the Christian children in this story.

I think this little story is an example of how the world regards Christmas. The emphasis is, clearly, on worldly notions and values. I discovered this the other day while I was looking for some clip-art or photos to use on my annual Christmas letter to family and friends who are some distance away. Out of the 900 images I checked, there were only 12 that one could say were related to the Bible account of the birth of Jesus Christ. All the rest were pictures of presents, Santa, reindeer, ornaments, trees, wreathes, mistletoe, snowmen etc. I believe this experience, just as the humorous story does, reveals where the hearts of most people are today when it comes to Christmas, including those of us who call ourselves ‘Christians’.

Someone may be thinking right this moment, “John, why don’t you just lighten up? What’s wrong with a little fun even if it isn’t all focused specifically on the religious aspects of Christmas?”

There is nothing wrong with a little fun and joy in many of the traditions that have attached themselves to the Christmas celebration. However, we should remember these traditions are merely “attachments” that have added to, but have not improved, the true reason for the season. What is wrong is that these attached traditions become more important in people’s hearts than the spiritual reason for celebrating Christmas. It’s a bit like the fellows from the country who went to visit New York City but became so caught up in all the sights, sounds, hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station they never did see the city with its many sights and, instead, they wound up spending their entire vacation without setting foot outside the terminal. They became stuck in a small portion of what could have been a far more memorable experience.

But there is a more subtle shift away from the spiritual that most people are not aware of because it takes place in the church community. Christians love to hear the Christmas story. For the great majority of believers this story consists of several elements:

  1. The angel appears to Mary to tell her she will be the mother of the Messiah.
  2. The angel appears to Joseph to tell him the same thing.
  3. Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census.
  4. Joseph and Mary have to stay in a stable because there is no room at the inn.
  5. When Jesus is born the angels sing.
  6. The angels tell the shepherds about Jesus.
  7. The wise men follow a star to Bethlehem and give gifts to Jesus.

That’s it! It is a true and wonderful story, although not entirely accurate, and it is right to celebrate the wondrous event, the birth of the Savior of the World. However, there is so much more to the story than this. So many people become stuck on the Christmas story to the point they would prefer to hold onto this lovely story about a miracle baby and never go beyond it. As proof of this, how many times you have heard others, or yourself, say something like, “Oh! Christmas is my favorite time of the year!” The truth is that Christmas was only the beginning of a new and significant period of time in history that would set in motion another whole set of wondrous events, each proclaiming the glory of God and His infinite love for us.

Our scripture verse for today, taken from the book of Isaiah, reminds us of this truth and takes us far beyond the birth of Jesus Christ contained in the traditional Bible story. It is the truth about the gift that keeps on giving.

This particular verse is part of a prophecy by Isaiah regarding the Messiah. Bible historians, theologians, and commentators have written a great deal of material on this whole chapter of Isaiah as a two-fold prophecy. One part of the prophecy deals with events that have already happened – but were yet to come when Isaiah foretold them pertaining to the reign of King Hezekiah, the captivity and return of the people to Jerusalem. I don’t have time to discuss this part of the prophecy today.

However, the second part of the prophecy deals with the Messiah, Jesus Christ; the scattering of the Jews following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; their return to a united Israel; the return or Second Coming of Jesus Christ; and the establishment of His millennial kingdom. This is what our scripture verse for today is all about. The first words of verse 11, “And in that day… are significant because they clearly indicate a time in the future, not only the future for the people of Isaiah’s time but our future, too. The promise for the first coming of the Messiah has taken place and it is the fulfillment of that promise that we celebrate at Christmas-time. But, Isaiah tells us there are more and even greater things to come from this Messiah.

The next words in this scripture verse are there shall be a Root of Jesse, a phrase that clearly points to the second coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The “Root of Jesse” indicates the royal line of David, the genealogy of which leads from Judah, one of Jacob’s sons, to Jesus. This was first prophesied by Jacob over his son Judah approximately 1000 years before Isaiah was even born back in Genesis 49:10: The scepter shall not depart from Judah … until Shiloh comes, whom all people shall obey. Shiloh is yet another word for Messiah and refers to the same event, the Second Coming of Jesus that Isaiah referred to in his prophecy. This is awesome!

The next words of the verse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the

Gentiles shall seek Him, or as the Living Bible expresses the same words, will be a

Banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him… A Banner is a rallying symbol, and Jesus the Messiah is the banner for the gathering of peoples from all over the earth. This is a prophecy of the coming of people of all nations to the knowledge of God which is a work that has been in progress ever since Jesus gave His disciples their mission before He ascended into heaven. It is the mission which is our responsibility as Christians, today, as we work and wait for the return of Christ.  This mission is described in Matthew 28:19-20 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

It is also interesting to note that the verses spoken by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel did not reveal a new Bible concept. The concept of evangelism was first given in Genesis 12 when God said to Abraham, “… 3I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you; and the entire world will be blessed because of you. (See Genesis 12:3)

Isn’t it awesome and amazing to see God’s plan for man’s salvation has been in effect for nearly 4,000 years? All these words and prophesies were written or spoken by men under the inspiration of God in many different periods of history. It is reassuring to me and serves to prove the authenticity of the Bible; it exposes the notion as impossibly ridiculous that the Bible exists by the collaboration of ordinary men.

Finally, the last phrase of our scripture reads …And His resting place shall be glorious.” There are many opinions on exactly what or where the resting place is, including Jerusalem, the temple, Mt. Zion, the right hand of God and the body, or church, of Christ. It could be all of these but I tend to favor the notion that the ultimate resting place of the Messiah is our hearts, the target of all God’s desires for His children. In Luke 12:34, Jesus said, “F or where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Ever since Adam fell away from Him into sin and death, God has been working on Plan B to restore that perfect relationship between mankind and Himself, 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) How much plainer can it be? God wants to be the treasure of our hearts even as we are the treasure of His heart.

What a deal that is for us! As we make Jesus our heart’s treasure, we inherit blessings in this life and then eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Brothers and Sisters, I don’t know where your heart is on this Christmas Eve. I earnestly hope, wish, and pray that you might know that Jesus is the reason for the season. That you are for Him and He is for you the Pearl of Great Price, the treasure hidden in the field of your own heart and the gift that keeps on giving, even unto the end of time and beyond.

Perhaps you have desired to accept this gift, but don’t know how to go about receiving. Perhaps you have not desired this gift before, but now you want it. Perhaps you have received the gift and want to make sure someone else receives it. Perhaps you merely want to affirm receiving the gift. How is it done? Let the words of the beloved Christmas carol show how.

“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in;
be born in us, today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord, Immanuel.”

Hallelujah! Amen.
Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

Pastor John W. Kretser

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

May Hope and Peace and Joy and Love

be yours in the Coming of The Christ Child

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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